herald

Monday 25 September 2017

Viper turns up at garda station to face quizzing

CRIMINAL and debt collector Martin Foley has handed himself in to gardai to be quizzed about alleged extortion.

It follows a complaint from a businessman that Foley tried to intimidate him into handing over money.

Foley, known as the Viper, turned himself in at Terenure Garda Station to be questioned about the claims.

Foley is one of the country's most notorious criminals and recently set himself up as a self-styled debt collector.

There are no regulations preventing gangland criminals from carrying out this business.

However, the Viper (57) handed himself over to gardai about claims he tried to intimidate the businessman in Dundalk, Co Louth.

An associate of Foley's, from Tallaght, was also interviewed after meeting gardai by arrangement yesterday afternoon. The pair were quizzed for two hours.

'Viper' Foley left the station under garda escort just before 4pm.

The investigation into the matter is continuing.

The 57-year-old, one of Dublin's highest-profile criminals, is a secretary and director of Viper Debt Recovery and Repossession Services Ltd, a debt-collecting service which has been in front of a court previously for allegedly using heavy-handed tactics.

A mother told the High Court last year how representatives of Viper's firm showed up at her home last July, one of whom was "quite threatening".

Teresa Hand-Campbell, from Kiltoom, Co Roscommon, said she felt very threatened and asked the men to leave immediately. As they left, one of the men warned her: "We will be back later and again tomorrow without a doubt."

REPOSSESSION

Last year Foley's debt collection activities were raised in the Dail. Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan said: "One particularly well-known criminal, drug trafficker Martin Foley, glories in his criminal connections. He has used his criminal moniker as part of his debt collection company's title, Viper Debt Recovery and Repossession Service Limited."

The latest investigation into Foley's activities follows claims he recently attempted to extort cash from a man in Dundalk.

Officers made informal contact with Foley and he agreed to hand himself in to answer a number of questions, along with an associate, yesterday.

He has been involved in the debt collection business - named after his infamous nickname - for four years. The business gets a commission for collecting outstanding debts.

Commenting in the Dail last year on Foley's activities, TD Charlie Flanagan also said: "He has his white van and travels up to people's doors, sometimes at night. He parks the van in such a way that people see the livery on the side of the van and in case anybody might not recognise him or know who he is, he asks, 'Do you not know who I am? There is my van. Look at my name. Now do you know who I am?'"

Mr Flanagan added: "There have been widespread reports about the Viper's debt collection activities in the midlands and south east, and yet the authorities are doing little to relieve the burden and stress on the individuals who have had occasion to meet this man in recent times."

Foley is one of the capital's highest-profile criminals and has survived four attempts on his life, being hit by more than a dozen bullets. In January 2008 he was shot several times as he drove his car away from the Carlisle Gym on the Kimmage Road ion January 26.

Despite extensive injuries, Foley managed to drive away from his attackers but crashed a short distance away.

SHOOTING

The shooting was believed by gardai to have been linked to criminals attached to gangs in the Crumlin-Drimnagh area.

He was shot on three other occasions -- outside Fatima Mansions in 1995, by the convicted murderer Brian Meehan in 1996 and in 2000 as he left a swimming pool in Terenure.

Foley has over 40 convictions and was first jailed in 1968.

Debt collection and enforcement will be overhauled to produce regulations outlawing threatening behaviour and demand potential debt collectors are screened to prevent people such as Foley from being involved in the industry.

In a recent report the Law Reform Commission said the position where individuals with prior criminal convictions could become involved in the industry must be reviewed.

hnews@herald.ie

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